The war on...
Maybe I'm only one of a few that question everything (but I really don't think so... at least I hope not!). Over the years I've had to, because I grew up being taught traditions; some good, some bad. Since I believe that the Bible, alone, is the absolute standard, questioning traditional stands on everything is necessary. The real question has to be, regardless of traditions and historical practice, "what is right by the Bible?"
A while back a teen challenged me with the question of wars. "I mean, if Jesus said to 'love your enemy' and 'turn the other cheek', how can anyone be right in going to war?" Well, I could have responded to that by pointing out the honor rolls hanging in many churches detailing all those who have fought and died for their country. Or reciting the oft quoted, "don't you feel grateful that they died to give you freedom?" But as I thought about it for a moment, many questions came to my mind. For example, "just because a church has promoted it, or honored it, for years... does it make it right?" and "Does the end result, 'freedom,' justify the means?" I chose to answer the teen with something that should be said perhaps a bit more often... "I don't know, but I'm willing to search out a Biblical answer."
As an avid student of history, I was also aware that some branches of Christianity [for example the Anabaptists and their successors, the Mennonites] have always held that fighting wars was not Christian. Obviously, both those who are for and those who are against cannot be right. Both sides quote Scriptures, so either the Bible contradicts itself or there is higher Biblical unity that reconciles these seemingly contradictory teachings. As a firm believer that the Bible was given without error and contradictions with only our understanding lacking I set out to search for that higher unity. The resultant search took longer than I expected, yet worth every minute as I can now clearly state a Biblical position on this subject.
What is war?
One dictionary definition simply states that war is "any act or state of hostility; enmity; also, a contest or conflict." Another claims it to be "in any state of active opposition." These days we hear of wars between nations, civil wars within nations, a war on terrorism, wars of drugs, street wars [gangs], and even police forces "fighting the war on crime." By dictionary definition, all of these can be legitimately called wars. But are they all legitimate [or just] wars?
Is any war right?
The big picture for that question comes right out of the Bible...
God was willing to fight a war that alone proves that some war is right. Notice that the text says that God's forces fought against the Devil and his forces, and they fought back. If God was unwilling to send his forces to war it would have allowed the arrogant forces of darkness to stay put and evil to triumph. War was necessary to defend the Truth [the King] and to reestablish order. While this establishes the need and correctness of spiritual war, it still leaves the question of earthly wars.
Many earthly wars.
God warned us in the Bible that the end times [which began after Jesus ascended. See Acts 2:14-17] that there would be lots of earthly wars.
The very reason we need to consider the question at hand is because of the abundant fulfillment of this prophecy.
What causes war?
There are two sides to every war [at least!]. The aggressor wants something that is not rightfully theirs (even though they may believe it to be so). The other side usually is defending itself. Occasionally both sides are aggressors, both wanting something that the other has (both wrongly believing they have claim to it).
The devil in wanting to be like God (Isaiah 14:14) claimed something that was not rightfully his own and God in fighting against him defended His just claim of authority.
Simply put, earthly or heavenly, the aggressor (or initiator) is covetous.
Are you fighting a covetous war?
Any war that is for covetous reasons is wrong. This is non-negotiable, even as God cannot change and his ten-commandments are a reflection of His holiness. If you are going to war to take something that is not rightfully yours, it is a war with covetous evil intent. The danger here is that it's easy to become self-deluded into believing [justifying] that something should be yours. The test has to remain Biblical, not subjective.
The results of all these covetous wars, on a large or a small scale, are reflected in both Old and New Testament passages...
Isn't all killing wrong?
The question of whether all killing is wrong lies at the heart of much opposition to all war.
The commandment concerning killing has to be seen in light of all Scriptures. Clearly God commanded many other times when someone was to be killed. God, himself, passed judgment on many nations requiring that they be exterminated for their sin [rebellion] against Him [the only true Authority]. Even as God fought against the devil's rebellion, He had every just reason to fight against earthly rebellion [and to use whatever means He desired to carry it out]. God has the right to kill any one of us for our rebellion (Romans 3:23). In Old Testament times, He used His [divinely directed] people to carry out much of His sentence of death. Without getting far into another related area, God also established [even before and apart from the law] that capital punishment was mandated for murder. The person(s) carrying out the capital punishment are free from guilt of murder because it is an authority established by God...
Functionally, there is lawful killing and unlawful killing. If God has decreed the killing, it is lawful. If it is by the [fallen] will of man out of anger, greed, or malice, it is unlawful killing. Accidental killing has always fit under the category of lawful (not worthy of punishment) as God alone is in control "accidental" events.
The question of who gets to administer lawful killing becomes an important one. If every individual can claim authority to do so, anarchy would prevail. In the Old Testament, this authority was only granted through His servants (prophets) and administered by the leadership of His people. Simply put, the government of the people was the only authority authorized to carry out justice. When God allowed an earthly king to be over His people, He made that king responsible to Himself for carrying out justice.
God still has instituted earthly authorities to carry out His will. Parents and church elders are two that come quickly to mind. Yet, in a more universal way, governments are one of them...
We are commanded to obey governing authorities in everything except to sin [or rebellion] against God and disobey His commands (See Acts 4:19). Actually, to rebel against governing authorities in any lawful matter is to sin against God.
Notice that God has given authority to governments, as characterized by a "sword" (Romans 13:4), to enforce or carry out at peril of death their office [or administration of authority]. Yet, the only ones that should fear lawful government are evildoers.
Governments are given authority by God [and are accountable to Him] for the following purposes...
A government's failure to uphold any area of this does not become automatic grounds to rebel against the complete authority of that government. Even wherein a government commands you to break one of God's commands, while you are justified in following God's higher command in that area, you are still required to obey the governing authority in all other lawful areas.
When an individual, group, or organization, attempts to administer areas of justice ordained for governments you have anarchy. Governments are right in fighting against [waging war against] any that would usurp their authority.
If a law enforcement officer lawfully kills someone in carrying out the government's duties, they are within God-ordained authority.
All participants in these such "wars" are outside of governmental authority and are responsible to true governments for any murders they commit.
All persons working in national defense are justified in carrying out their God ordained administration of governmental justice even to the point of killing. Bringing terrorists, nationally or internationally, to justice would fit within this. Yet with warning that a government is accountable to God for wrong doings that it commits while attempting to administer justice [many wrongs do not make a right and ends don't justify the means].
We as believers are personally commanded to "love our enemies (Matthew 5:44)" and to "turn the other cheek." This in no way is opposed to us carrying out the administration of justice by God ordained authorities [both in and out of the church]. Even as we are commanded to personally not kill, there are times when God ordained authority is permitted [even commanded] to carry it out. God's Word is never in contradiction, it must be seen as a whole. To take any small piece out of the context of the whole can establish doctrine that is dangerous.
As for the church, and believers personally, the only war we are waging is to be spiritual. Our battle is against sin and the flesh. Our methods are not with physical means, as do governmental authorities, but with spiritual means. Our battle is far greater and of eternal consequences.